House Amendment Fixes Flight Training Rules


Congress appears poised to short-circuit the FAA’s plans for an elaborate rewrite of its commercial aviation definition that has resulted in frustrating paperwork exercises for some CFIs. The House has passed a bipartisan amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that states in plain language that an instructor conducting training “shall not be deemed to be operating an aircraft carrying persons or property for compensation or hire,” according to an AOPA report on the amendment.

A legal opinion that resulted from the prosecution of a Florida company for allegedly offering flight instruction in a warbird prompted the agency to require that all instruction in experimental aircraft require the instructor to have a Letter of Deviation Authority and that those teaching in limited or primary category a written exemption. FAA Administrator Steve Dickson told the annual Meet The Administrator session at AirVenture 2021 that he was frustrated by the action, too, but that the legal niceties had to be observed. He estimated it would take four years to rewrite that section of the regs and said the agency had done what it could to make getting the required paperwork quick and easy. 

But AOPA said in its report that the paperwork addresses a practically nonexistent issue and a precedent that has allowed homebuilders and owners of non-standard category aircraft to learn to fly in their own planes for more than 60 years. The FAA said it took the action to “prevent operators from broadly offering their aircraft for joyrides and other similar experiences under the guise of ‘flight training.’” Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., and Rep. Kai Kahele, D-Hawaii, co-sponsored the amendment. “This important amendment will clear up the confusion associated with flight instruction for general aviation pilots and I look forward to working with the Senate to ensure it is signed into law,” Kahele said in a statement. Graves said he and Kahele will keep tabs on the amendment to make sure it survives the rest of the legislative process and makes it into the final authorization act.

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  1. I thank Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., and Rep. Kai Kahele, D-Hawaii for their efforts clearing up ‘another’ FAA mess. What an absolute shame that the FAA has become so non-essential. So many of these alphabet agencies have become nothing more then political tools for hire. The other story about drone operations over the border is more proof these bureaucrats only purpose is to play politics.

  2. Squared, Klaus. I attended that Meet the Administrator meeting at Airventure 2021 and was deeply offended by Administrator Dickson’s cavalier attitude toward fixing a problem that isn’t really a problem. I had to bite my tongue and throttle myself from requesting the microphone and telling him to “wave his magic twanger” and order his people to fix it prior to the end of the year. He COULDA done that easily.

    Reminded me of former Administrator Huerta marching up to the microphone for several years and telling us that medical reform was in the pipeline and couldn’t be discussed.

    That the Congress — through a handful of ombudsmen for GA — has to “order” the FAA to do its job is downright shameful … and Dickson OUGHT to be ashamed of both himself AND his front line managers. THIS is why I have little respect for the FAA hierarchy and why it takes years to do what ought to take months.

    We are lucky to have people like Graves, Kahele, Inhofe, et al, helping us. Now if we could just get the FAA off their … hind ends … and act on MOSAIC !!

  3. Looks like AOPA and the other alphabet GA industry organizations are eating their own words over the positive comments made when Mr. Dickson’s appointment was approved by the Senate! Hopefully those organizations remember this when the next administrator is selected.

    • Not totally sure that such positivity about Mt. Dickinson is falsely placed. There are a lot of quietly shining lights in the FAA and I have known many. I am NOT crowing about Mr. Dickinson but he might not be as bad as some here wish to make him. The FAA is a huge Government Bureaucracy and they are almost impossible to “fix” especially by a single person, Administrator or not.
      Yes, we all know that most things are relatively easy to fix or repair. We all do that in our lives routinely. In small companies or organizations ideas or problems arise, are discussed or analyzed, and corrective actions are taken. In large corporations or the government any such issues drag on forever because they are messing with someone’s personal teapot. Nothing happens because for whatever reason, pride or stubbornness, someone won’t actually listen to reason. The “Not Invented Here” syndrome. Throw in the various “unions” and one simply cannot clean out the swamp. Same with Congress and Washington in general. Sadly, it often takes actions by people that control the budget to get any government agency to change anything.

  4. The FAA is losing its credibility if Congress has to constantly step in to fix things the FAA should have dealt with itself. FAA wouldn’t reform medicals, Congress imposes BasicMed. FAA wants to redefine instruction and create a new useless bureaucracy, Congress is intervening. The FAA won’t clean its own house, so we have a stream of Pilot Bill of Rights.

    When are we going to get an FAA administrator who actual DOES something positive and moves the agency forward instead of backward?

    If we never get that, then Congress will become the defacto FAA administrator and that position will be basically irrelevant.

    It’s time to get more done this way: expand BasciMed to all instances where a 3rd class medical is required, make getting approval for new autopilots in legacy aircraft easier, and so forth.

  5. I feel this is similar to what I have just experienced with flying model airplanes. Oops, I mean UAVs. Some numbnutz flies a drone near an airport and ruins the hobby for the rest of us. We lost our flying field, oops, I mean FRIA in our area so I’m out of it other than my Part 107 I do for emergency search and rescue. Fits in with other idiots who stole planes, now we fence off most airports. It’s probably good that we’ll have these antonymous electric UBERs I keep reading about because we won’t have many pilots for manned (woman’d) aircraft before long.

  6. A simple solution to the root cause of the warbird training problem would be to take enforcement action against the instructors and company officials who were providing “joy rides” rather than flight training. No new regulations needed.

    • What’s the definition of a “Joy Ride”?

      As I understand it, some of these warbird companies were providing joy-rides under the guise of flight-instruction (in the FAA’s view). Whereas the flight school’s view was that it was providing flight instruction that happened to be a lot of fun.

      For example, check out “Warbird Adventures” (is that the name of a school? Or an amusement park?)

      The language on that site certainly sounds thrilling, doesn’t it? But does that make it TOO much fun to be instruction? If so, why? Walt Disney famously said “laughter is no enemy of learning.”

      So it boils down to what’s the definition of a “joy ride” or, for that matter, “flight instruction”? If a CFI goes up with a thrill-seeker, er, student pilot and ‘demonstrates’ loops, rolls and wing-overs, does that constitute instruction? Or a joy-ride? Maybe the student has to manipulate the controls. If so, for how long? During what phases of flight?

      The devil is in the details, and the court followed these to the bitter end.

  7. The FAA “administrator” is a buffoon – just like his boss. Just like all other non-elected administration departments, they make law – contrary to the Constitution and US statutes. I say again; the FAA is the enemy of private aviation and aviators.

    • Fairplay to you Gary. You are spot on when you describe this guy as a
      buffoon. How in the world do you think this guy ever got to where he is if not for being a political hack. He just happens to be a private sector political hack as opposed to a government political hack which he now is.

      The FAA has become a hateful spiteful organization there only out to cause harm to aviators and operators in the Aviation business. And sadly it ain’t gonna get better.

  8. Everyone is trashing the FAA for not doing more to fix this, but the FAA can only do what Congress tells it to do by law.
    Granted, the administrator’s statement that the process would take four years was pathetic.
    This whole fiasco was caused by a court interpreting an ambiguous law in an inconvenient way. Congress has to fix it by redefining “flight instruction” and “commercial operation” as separate things.
    I’m glad that there are at least two congressmen that are trying to fix something.

  9. What really bugs me the most is that it feels like the FAA is capable of doing horrible and disruptive (if not outright evil) things instantly, at the stroke of a pen. But it takes years of disciplined analysis to make even the smallest change for good. Like BasicMed or an unleaded fuel.

    If they were able to create this problem at the stroke of a pen, they should be able to erase it just as easily. If it’s going to take years of analysis and debate to undo it, then it should have taken that to create it.

    • An axiom about life, it is always easier to destroy then to create and as a corollary, it always takes more energy to create then destroy. This can apply to politics as well a nature. One man can destroy a country or empire in just a short time, while it may have taken centuries to build.

      The good news it that if you stop the one man before to much damage is done then destruction is minimized, but trying to create becomes much harder as the damage needs to be removed first.

      The Administrator is not a bad or evil man, just emblematic of what the FAA, and by extension Congress has become, controlled by money and power instead of doing actions to benefit people living in this country. Hell, Boeing pretty much owned the FAA before MAX’s starting crashing, but it got that way, because we put people in office that put people in agencies like the FAA to coddle corporate interest first. Honestly, if we piss on the FAA, we are really pissing on ourselves. Maybe we should stop putting people in charge that really don’t GAF about you, me, and many other fellow pilots and workers in the industry. Maybe we should try voting for people, like those two in GA, that truly want to serve “The People” and not “The Person”.

  10. “The FAA said it took the action to “prevent operators from broadly offering their aircraft for joyrides and other similar experiences under the guise of ‘flight training.’”

    Like the Young Eagles Program that we do in hopes that we can focus young people in a direction other than drugs?

  11. I agree with most of what is being said. We create our world, and if something happening is disagreeable or we are disgusted by it, then it’s time to change it. The FAA is a big government federal agency which has now become more of a burden on G.A. than a help. It needs to be restructured. It’s a vindictive agency with an axe to grind more than half the time. I suggest the following changes: Firstly, let’s close it down, next create a new agency which is PAA “the Pilots Aviation Administration. The PAA shall be directly driven by pilots complaints and oversight by pilots thenselves. if it does anything objectionable. The PAAs rules will still exist, but they will be simplified and easier to follow with less bureaucracy. All the “gotchas” will be removed. The PAA would have similar rules as the FAA, but with all of the obsolete and objectionable bits under oversight by pilots and can be readily changed if there are a certain number of complaints. Leadership shall be subject to be voted out by pilots.

  12. “The FAA said it took the action to ‘prevent operators from broadly offering their aircraft for joyrides and other similar experiences under the guise of “flight training.”’”

    Four points:

    1) So now Though Crime is part of the FAR’s? It doesn’t matter if you’re really a CFI and really giving (some) Instruction? What matters is if you REALLY meant it?

    As someone else above pointed out, wouldn’t an Introductory Flight fail this Thought Crime test? I used to give Introductory Flights. Sometimes they were Birthday Presents, just a Joy Ride. I was light on the instruction. Once in the air, I would show them how to steer (forgoing instruction on Ruder and Trim) and let them drive around looking at their home or something, since it was clear that I would never see them again. (They didn’t even buy a log book that I could make an entry in.)

    Even worse, I had “students” (in fact a lawyer once) who used me to fly on business. That is, on a first flight they wanted to do a Cross Country (more than 25 miles), wait on them for an hour or two, then fly back home. I suppose the FAA would Thought Crime this as conducting a Part 135 Operation. But, hey, I gave them instruction along the way. And they were safe. (The planes had 100 hr inspections.) So what? (I will explain the “So What” in Point # 4.)

    2) Liberals never want us to have too much fun. (Or Innovate.)

    Ironically, think about all the people who would have taken a Joy Ride/Instruction in a Warbird and would have wanted to become pilots afterward. Now they won’t.

    3) But more to the point, How was this a problem/safely issue/protecting the public? Ans: It wasn’t.

    4) Which brings up the real heart of the matter: Whose ox was gored here? Someone had to have complained to the FAA. (Hey, AvWeb, how about making a FOIA request?) Probably a local flight school who felt that business was being taken away from them.

  13. Now if we can just get congress to fire every FAA employee at the FSDOs who use the excuse of COVID to not answer phone calls, or e-mails or do ANY work for the flying public! I’m fed up with these government bureaucrats who have been on a nice vacation at OUR expense! Just try calling your local FSDO and you’ll see what I mean.